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Star to have a Hindi sports channel; Star Sports to become mother brand

MUMBAI: India’s most widely spoken language is all set to get a dedicated sports channel courtesy Star India. The 21st Century Fox-owned company will have a dedicated Hindi sports channel airing India specific content while rebranding Star Cricket, says a source familiar with the development.

The source, who did not wish to be identified, said that the dedicated Hindi sports channel has been christened Star Sports 3 and it will air India specific events like the Ranji Trophy, Hockey India League (HIL), Indian Badminton League (IBL), Super Fight League (SFL) and the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL), a 65:35 joint venture between IMG Reliance and Star India. The channel will also be home to international cricket involving the Indian team.

star-sports-logoStar Sports 2 will be a dual feed channel having mix of India and international content. “It will be a dual feed in Hindi and English language,” the source added.

Star India has also decided to shed the ESPN brand in the country. The rebranded channel will be called Star Sports 4. Similarly, ESPN HD has been rebranded as Star Sports HD 2.

The existing Star Sports channel will now be known as Star Sports 1 while Star Cricket HD will be rebranded as Star Sports HD 1.

ESPN Software India, the sports broadcast subsidiary of Star India, currently owns and operates six channels in India including Star Sports, Star Sports 2, Star Cricket, Star Cricket HD, ESPN and ESPN HD.

The move puts Star Sports brand at the centre stage and comes in the wake of Star India taking charge of the India sports business following the split between 21st Century Fox (earlier News Corp) and Walt Disney’s ESPN. ESI was earlier a subsidiary of Singapore-headquartered ESS. 21st Century Fox had paid $335 million to acquire ESPN’s 50 per cent stake in the company.

The source said that the new branding for all the six channels is most likely to come into effect beginning with the first Test match between India and West Indies that kicks off on 6 November. The timing of rebranding the sports network coincides with cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell Test series. The India-West Indies series comprises two Tests and three ODIs.

In last one year, Star has invested more than $1 billion to strengthen its content pipeline. The broadcaster first bagged the lucrative BCCI rights for $700 million till 2018. Then it retained the England Cricket Board (ECB) for a whopping $200 million. It paid a mind-boggling $145 million to retain the English Premier League (EPL) rights.

Sensing huge potential in local leagues, Star acquired rights to local franchise-based leagues like HIL, SFL, IBL and ISL. It also bagged the rights to 2014 Winter Olympics and 2016 Summer Olympics.

Apart from these events, ESI also has a large amount of live content across sports like cricket, soccer, tennis, and motorsports.

Some of the major properties that the sportscaster holds include Cricket Australia, International Cricket Council (ICC), and Champions League T20 in Cricket, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, and FA Cup in Football, Wimbledon and Australian Open in Tennis and Formula One and Moto GP in Motorsports.